a tiger of a fellow


Senior Member
Hi folks, this is cited from Wellingborough Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)

Question: Does this bold one mean “a very disciplined person or a harsh person”?

The captain now abdicated in the pilot's favor, who proved to be a tiger of a fellow, keeping us hard at work, pulling and hauling the braces, and trimming the ship, to catch the least cat's-paw of wind.
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It just means someone who is seen to be or behave like a tiger in one way or another, depending on the situation.

    TIGER: A person of fierce, cruel, rapacious, or blood-thirsty disposition; also sometimes, a person of very great activity, strength, or courage. (OED)


    Senior Member
    English - England
    to be an X of a Y is an idiom, sometimes (but not always) using animals for comparison.

    . John was a bear of a man = John was built like a bear.

    . Bill was a pathetic little weasel of a man = He was scrawny and treacherous.


    It can be used positively.

    . She was a saint of a woman = She was saintly.

    It can also be used for inanimate objects.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    A marine pilot's job is to take command of a vessel in order to navigate it safely into port, through whatever combination of rocks, shoals, reefs, bars, and weather that might make that hazardous. A pilot brings strange ships into port every day, trading on his singular knowledge of the local currents, channels, and tides. He has to establish command of the vessels that have hired him, because within an hour or so, disaster might strike,
    This pilot was no more aggressive than most of his trade.
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